The UT Police Department has launched a district representative program to engage more directly with the University community, assigning UTPD officers to communicate with specific on- and off-campus areas.
UTPD split areas including the J.J. Pickle Research Campus and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center into eight districts. One district representative from UTPD will oversee each area and communicate with those who live or work there. Students and faculty can go to the district map, identify their representative and email them with any nonemergency issues or questions.
“These men and women are basically responsible to be the primary point of contact,” said David Carter, UTPD police chief and assistant vice president for campus security. “This is a way for us to reach out and be engaged with our community. As we’ve said in the past, an engaged community is basically a safe community.”
One of the goals of this program is for each representative to become a familiar face to those in his or her district, Carter said.
Cpl. Joseph Bishop, the representative for District 5, has already been answering questions from people in his district, which covers some of the athletic facilities near I-35 and the LBJ Presidential Library.
“I meet a lot with student athletes because we have the baseball and softball stadium and the new tennis center over there,” Bishop said. “I mostly just meet with them, talk with them, see how their day is going (and ask) if they have any problems or anything they want us to check on.”
Bishop said he hopes the extra face time that comes from the district representative program will help students, faculty and staff feel more comfortable approaching UTPD with any questions or concerns.
“I have no problems with giving my email and contact information,” Bishop said. “(If) I can’t answer the question right there, I can get the information and send it to the student later.”
Humanities junior Whitley Braziel hasn’t interacted with a UTPD officer before, but said the representative program makes her more open to reaching out if she needs to.
“I think the openness of communication between the community and police will provide reassurance to worried parents and anxious students,” Braziel said.
Carter said he hopes this program will help students, faculty and staff feel at ease with UTPD’s presence on campus.
“We don’t want people to think because they see a police officer, that something, in fact, is wrong,” Carter said. “We actually want them to see the officer as somebody there to support and be partners with them for a safe community.”
As the majority of students return for the fall semester, Carter said he is excited to see how the program plays out.
“UTPD is trying to lead the way in terms of recognizing that we have to stay engaged with our student community, and we’re very hopeful our students will stay engaged with us,” Carter said.